When I was a junior high kid — maybe even younger, my friends and I used to go into Hoffman’s on the west side of Princeton’s Main Street and buy friendship rings for each other. They were these gold or silver bands that cost about $2 back then. Obviously, they weren’t real gold, but it didn’t matter to us. We exchanged them with our youthful boyfriends. It was a really big deal to give one and an even bigger deal to get one.
I also remember going into Hoffman’s when I was a young girl to look for gifts for my grandmother. Grandma liked costume jewelry, and I remember this jewelry case the store had. It had buttons on the top that made the shelves inside the case rotate, so you could see all the pretty earrings, pins and necklaces. I remember standing in front of that case for quite a few minutes, wondering if my youthful pocketbook could afford something pretty for Grandma.
Regardless of whether I was shopping for a new friendship ring or something to give as a gift to my grandmother, I always remember Mrs. Murphey helping me in the store. She never made my friends and me think the idea of a friendship ring for that special boy was silly. Likewise, she was always able to find just the right pin or necklace for my grandmother — somehow she was always able to find something that would fit into my very meager budget.
Fast forward several years and Hoffman’s — now living on the east side of South Main Street — was still the place to go for that special gift for someone special. While the amount of money I had to spend was a bit more than when I was a child and the gifts I chose were different than a friendship ring for a special boy or a piece of costume jewelry for my grandmother, I still remember Mrs. Murphey being just as helpful, just as kind. She always made me feel special for shopping in her store.
Many years have passed since those days. Somewhere through time, Mrs. Murphey turned into Winnie, and when I went into Hoffman’s — still searching for a special gift for a special someone, I’d find myself searching for Winnie Murphey before I even attempted to look around the store. I always wanted to say hi and chat for just a minute. Winnie had a way of making you feel good about things — just life in general, and she always made you feel special for walking through her door. If Winnie wasn’t in the store, it wasn’t quite the same. Don’t misunderstand ... Winnie’s daughter Jyl and the rest of the staff at Hoffman’s are wonderful; I just missed Winnie.
I never really told her how much I respected her ... how much her kindness through the years meant to a little kid who never had more than a couple of dollars in her pocket, but for some reason, I always kind of felt like she knew. I know hindsight is always 20/20, but I wish now I would have talked to her about those long ago days and reminded her how much it meant to a little kid to be treated with such respect.
On April 4, the angels must have know they needed Winnie more than we did. Many of our hearts broke for the woman we lost.
What a role model she was for us all ... humble, strong, kind-hearted, gracious. Not only was she a great businesswoman who surrounded herself with many beautiful items, she was a good lady with a heart that sparkled with sincerity. It was my privilege to know Winnie Murphey. I will miss her.
But I have to think right now Winnie is probably in charge of making heaven just a bit more beautiful. No doubt she is searching through boxes of china there, setting a most-amazing table which will be waiting for all of us someday. She’s decorating this and that, and she’s chatting with family and friends, old and new.
Now that I think about it, perhaps Winnie was an angel in disguise all along ...
BCR Editor Terri Simon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.